Not unto the Critics…

Holiday break affords much needed introvert reflection time for me and as I dive into my thoughts/ feelings/ dreams, my gratitude increases by exponential leaps and bounds. I recall who I am at my most basic, yet ironically complex, self. The layers of deadlines and to-do lists make cloudy the image that I have of who I am. Then technological gadgets make it so that I can go throughout the day with literally not a second of alone time.

So space to come back to myself is needed like the sun is needed after weeks of clouds.

The space that this 2015 holiday has provided has been both difficult and productive. It’s necessary space, but it often requires one to pick up those things that one has pushed aside in one’s spirit because of how hard they might be to think and talk about.

It’s a kind of “re-collection space.” Space to recollect that which I know is true about myself and to center my mind, body, and spirit around that, as well as a time to re-collect my priorities, my work, relationships that I have neglected, etc.

One guide whose work I trust to accompany me through this recollection space is someone who is not new to the blog, but whom I’ve written about before, here and here. During this break, I have been reacquainted with Dr. Brené Brown’s sociological work on shame and vulnerability. She has centered her most recent work on a quote which she came across years ago by Theodore Roosevelt. Before sharing the quote and elucidating my thoughts on it, I want to first say that while I believe this quote to be extraordinarily significant to the truth of her work, I have major issues of much of what Teddy did as President and do not support his actions by posting this quote.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

This quote has been poignant to me in my reflection on what is to come in 2016 and the manner by which I plan to carry myself. The main point of this quote and of my writing today is the vulnerability that it takes to be in the arena: to put yourself “out there” and expose yourself to the weathered elements of criticism. Being vulnerable almost always involves creating something, be it poetry, a blog or book, or beginning a program of study, getting out of an unhealthy relationship or getting into a new one, using your privilege creatively to dis-mantle unjust systems, allying with folks who are doing the work from their communities, doing the work from your community, forming new skill sets, pushing your body into something healthier, and so many more ways of creating vulnerably.

Though this list of activities varies widely in scope, two common themes unite it: creating and vulnerability. Creating means bringing something new into the world instead of solely consuming. You know, like consuming social media, TV, Netflix, magazines, people, sports games, and the list goes on. Rather than consuming practices, these activities of creation require one to stand in the arena surrounded by many critics who are quite comfortable sitting on their butts critiquing you. And it can hurt incredibly because you are so exposed. This is where Brené’s work comes in (see video below) because it is at this point of vulnerability that she suggests acknowledging the critics (both human and your own self doubt) and even reserving their seats, and then she suggests: “Tell them, I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.”

Some critics are trolls whose sole purpose is to inflict doubt and criticism because of their own lack, but some are family and friends who, for whatever reason, cannot get on board with this growth, change, and creativity in your life.

“Tell them, I see you, I hear you, but I’m going to do this anyway.”

Because it doesn’t really matter who you are, if you aren’t also in the arena getting your butt kicked as hard as I am, and creating something in this world instead of consuming all the things, then while I respect your opinion, it is irrelevant to me.

I’m going to do this anyway.

*******************************

You can see the full video of Brené Brown’s: Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count, here. I highly recommend it!

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